Summary: NO (Incase you don’t want to read further)
I set out to build myself a new desktop recently and one of the decisions I had to make was “Do I go with DDR3, or stick with DDR2?”, then of course if you stick with DDR2, do you go with oldie 800 ram or shoot for the 1066 or higher but pay the premium? I wasn’t sure at the time, so I set out to some do some research, and here is what I found…
First off, DDR3 has been on the market for a while now, but you never hear about it for 2 reasons:
- It’s expensive as hell, usually about 2x the price of DDR2 ram or more.
- There is no noticeable performance improvement using it.
The reason for #2 is the same reason DDR2 wasn’t awesome right away when it first came out: the latencies are much higher and even though the bandwidth ceiling is much higher, we aren’t even maxing out what we have already… so it’s a moot point.
I was originally looking at building a machine using the Intel QX9650 and figured a quad-core beast with a 1333mhz FSB would definately need either DDR3 ram or the highest end DDR2 (1600?) RAM I could scrounge up.
Once I went looking and prices and realized that in some cases the price of 1GB of expensive DDR3 ram was the same price was 4GBs of DDR2-800 ram, I decided to look up some benchmarks to see if this mess was even worth it.
NOTE: For the folks that didn’t do a lot of computing in the 90s and building their own machines, finding “good” ram with awesome “timings” like 1 and 2 CAS latencies used to make a big difference, especially in gaming. But as computers have gotten faster and faster the difference good memory allows is completely negligible now except for overall stability… that is still important when buying good ram.
As I trapes’ed my way around online I ran across a great benchmark from Digit-Life comparing DDR2-800 to DDR3-1333… memory that couldn’t be farther apart on the performance scale; and exactly what I wanted. If there was a benefit to DDR3 this benchmark was going to make it clear.
The other great thing about this benchmark is that it used both the new, unreleased QX9770 and the QX9650 to saturate the memory with the fastest quad-core CPUs available today (and likely for the next 6 months). The results were surprising to say the least.
I immediately scrolled down to the most CPU-intensive task I could find, Video Encoding:
notice that there is absolutely no difference between the DDR2-800 and DDR3-1333 setups during this task?
Then I scrolled down to a normalized gaming score between the two and again, found almost absolutely no difference:
I figured with the added bandwidth provided by DDR3 that games atleast would be running faster with so much texture work to push, but apparently we aren’t even making full use of that is provided by DDR2-800 at this point… meaning something else in the PC is the bottleneck.
This is equatable to how SATA-2 connections allow for a 3GB/sec bandwidth right now, but a typical SATA hard drive will burst around 110MB/sec and sustain around 50-70MB/sec… no where near the 3GB/sec cap on the bus (unless you had some insane RAID setup).
So the good news from all of this is that you can safely buy DDR2-800 ram for $40/GB instead of the fucking crazy DDR3 ram for the forseeable future.
And don’t even bother with DDR2-1066 or higher DDR2 ram… I found benchmarks on those as well comparing to DDR2-800 that again showed almost no difference in performance.